UX Goes Global (Book Review)

Two book covers

A review of two books
Global UX: Design and Research in a Connected World
by Whitney Quesenbery and Daniel Szuc
Morgan Kauffman, 2011
and
The Handbook of Global User Research
by Robert Schumacher
Morgan Kauffman, 2009

I haven’t yet had the opportunity to engage in user research outside of the U.S., but I have no doubt that I will in the near future. As technology becomes more pervasive throughout the world and companies increasingly compete for global audiences, many UX practitioners will be called upon to conduct research and design projects involving international users. Fortunately, there are now two excellent books to help us with such endeavors: Global UX: Design and Research in a Connected World by Whitney Quesenbery and Daniel Szuc, and The Handbook of Global User Research, edited by Robert Schumacher.

Global UX is a review of what it means to be a successful UX practitioner in a global context, and is more of a discussion than a detailed how-to guide. Insightful interviews with practitioners from around the world are sprinkled throughout the text.

The first part of the book addresses how an interconnected world impacts UX professionals. One thing I learned from these chapters is that Asian countries and companies are developing stronger connections with each other, which will ultimately influence how and why people do things throughout the world. Next comes a framework for how to think about culture and what culture means for UX. The book concludes with high-level tips on how to manage international UX projects.

If you’re looking for detailed, practical advice on how to conduct global research, definitely take a look at Schumacher’s Handbook of Global User Research. This book discusses considerations for various research methods when used in a global context, explains how to prepare for and conduct global studies, and provides guidance on how to report research findings from these studies.

UX practitioners who have worked in certain countries share their tips on doing research there and describe how to establish key partnerships to support your projects. Let’s say you have a project planned in Denmark. Did you know that Danes often find it less awkward when moderators sit next to research participants as opposed to moderating from a separate room? Or that thinking aloud comes naturally to Danes? Japanese participants, on the other hand, like to take a focused approach when working on tasks and prefer to talk upon task completion.

In the first chapter, Schumacher provides the clearest explanation I’ve ever encountered on the similarities and differences of the UX discipline and those of psychology, anthropology, marketing research, computer science, human factors, and industrial engineering. While this information is not specific to global UX research, I wish I had access to such a thorough overview when I started my UX career! On the topic of marketing and UX research, Schumacher says, “Smart organizations would do well to place user research and marketing research side by side, each with its complementary contributions to the enterprise.” I’ve often wondered if this is the case, but have never seen such a merger occur successfully.

Although there is some redundant content between the two books, they complement each other well and I recommend picking up a copy of each. If you’re a user researcher or designer just starting to explore the landscape of global UX work, I’d start with Quesenbery and Szuc’s Global UX. If you’ll be involved with an international user research project soon, I’d first read Schumacher’s handbook.

Happy reading!

A sketchnote (text below)

Sketchnote by Amanda Wright, from Global UX by W. Quesenbery and D. Szuc

The sketchnote is titled: Effective Global Teams

  • Global companies + global products = global teams.
  • “Folks who have gone our of their habitat tend to be the good ones.” – Henning Fischer
  • There are many patterns for setting up global teams.
  • The most common pattern: Teams organized into offices by function.
  • “The team is global. The team is for the product and you work together.” Tomer Sharon, Google.
  • Collaboration is a challenge: missing conversations, early starts, late finishes, no 9-5 schedule, long-distance relationships, agile is tough
  • Get together at key times in a project
  • “Setting a a schedule, so time is built into your day helps make collaboration a priority.”
  • Listen carefully and take the time to find a communication style that works for everyone.
  • Video works best for meetings rather than workshops.
  • The value of global teams is their diversity.

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